For older people, falling can have serious implications on our health and quality of life.
Falls are the number one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among people 65 years and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.8 million older adults were treated in emergency rooms for falls in 2014 alone.
Due to the risk of serious injury, caregivers and seniors should be aware of the importance of preventing falls. In addition to being the leading cause of injuries for elderly, falls also place seniors at risk for other serious health complications.
The good news is that falls are preventable. Here’s what you need to know about creating a safe environment for the elderly.
What Causes Falls?
Among the elderly, there are many reasons that a fall may occur. With different environments, care, and health, each individual has specific circumstances that could lead to a fall happening.
The first culprit of falls is age and the natural changes our bodies experience throughout the years. What happens to our body as we age?
- Our bone density and strength naturally deteriorate, which is why primary care physicians (PCP) may prescribe supplements or medication to combat these inevitable changes. Weak bones make it easy for people to fall and even harder for them to get back up.
- Our vision changes, and not for the better. Many older people find themselves suffering from cataracts. Poor vision means people can’t clearly see where they are walking or what they are doing.
- Our heart and other vital organs have many years of wear on them. And a lack of physical activity can cause these organs to work at a slower pace. Blood pressure goes up, so PCPs will prescribe medication that regulates blood pressure to a normal level.
Chronic or Acute Health Concerns
Various types of health concerns can cause side effects that increase one’s chances of falling. Symptoms such as weakness in the hands and feet, lack of muscle, poor balance, and bad eyesight are symptoms of the following medical conditions which place individuals at a higher risk of falling:
A senior’s environment is one of the most important things to consider while working to prevent falls. Because aging and health concerns could already be working against an individual, it’s important to create a safe and easily accessible environment. A few hazards that can potentially create danger are:
- Unorganized rooms
- Miscellaneous items on the ground
- Poor lighting
- Shaggy rugs
It’s essential for seniors to maintain a consistent routine with physical activity in order to keep their bodies strong. A lack of physical activity can severely limit mobility and increase one’s chances of being injured from a fall. Even if an individual isn’t suffering from a serious medical condition, a weakened body can quickly become a significant factor in their safety, since it can lead to:
- Poor balance
- Diminished flexibility
- Minimal muscle tone
How to Prevent Falls
There are steps caregivers and family members can take in order to make each environment safer for every elderly individual. Because falls are extremely common in older adults, it’s important to take every action possible to prevent them happening.
Preventing falls is a group effort. If we communicate and look for solutions, we can prevent the number of falls our older loved ones experience. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your loved ones. Talk to your friends.
How to Talk to Your Loved One About the Risks of Falling
First, talk to your older loved ones. Many adults who fall don’t report them because they either think it’s nothing serious, they don’t want to worry others, or they are embarrassed. Relay these conversations to their PCP. Their doctor can look at their file and see if the are on any medications that may put them at a greater risk for falling and recommend a switch. They might also see injuries in their medical history to alert the person about fall risks.
Stairs are a major hazard in any home for the elderly. Having to take each step up is an easy way for individuals to lose their balance, miss a step, or slip and fall. One way to prevent this from happening is to provide a space that is stair-free. For seniors who live with their loved ones, this is not always possible, and it is not always convenient to move homes.
Chair lifts are one option which may be considered, and creating a space on the first floor of a home is another. Family members can also work to ensure all of their loved one’s necessities are downstairs at all times, including medications and other essentials to prevent them from having to climb stairs.
In our section on safety equipment, we’ll share more information about equipment that can help make stairs safer.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Believe it or not, wearing the proper clothing can have a major impact on the risk of falling. It’s incredibly important for caregivers and seniors to be aware of the type of clothing that may put them at a higher risk of falling.
Wearing proper socks and shoes is one significant step towards a safe environment. When wearing socks, look for pairs that have pads on the bottom to help with traction and reduce the risk of slipping. Be sure that shoes are the correct size, don’t have slippery soles, and aren’t prone to catch on things. A few shoes that elders should avoid in order to prevent falling are:
- Flip flops
- House-shoe slippers
It’s also important to wear appropriate apparel for daily activities. Wearing baggy clothing can cause falls by catching on furniture, railings, doorknobs, and more. Although it is not necessary to wear tight clothing, it is important to invest in clothing that fits properly to the body and won’t hang off loosely.
Keep a Neat Environment
A tidy home is an easy way to help prevent falls. Simply taking the time to clean up after yourself is one way to ensure your home is neat at all times. Picking up fallen items or taking time to push in chairs are simple ways to avoid risks of falling. If possible, consider having a professional cleaning service clean your home to declutter and organize.
One way to create a neat and tidy environment in your home is to declutter. Picking up random items is not always the best solution. Sometimes, you need to get rid of unneeded items in your home. If your drawers and shelves are filled with unnecessary items, take the time to declutter.
Take Stock of What Can Go
It’s also important to consider the amount of furniture in a room when creating an environment that is safe for seniors. If your home is filled with furniture and decor that makes moving from one room to another difficult, consider donating or selling some of your items to make more space and to help prevent the danger of falls.
Look at the layout of your home. Look at the furnishings. Ask yourself:
- What in your house could be a fall risk?
- Is there a shelf that sticks out too far causing you to regularly bump into it?
- Is there a hallway with a slope that can cause you to slip?
- How many stairs do you have to walk up to get into your home?
- Do you have a hard time reaching items in cabinets? Is furniture blocking an entranceway?
If you have fallen once, especially in your own home, your chances of falling again are likely. The more you fall, the less confident you will be the next time you have to go somewhere.
Utilize Proper Lighting
Keeping a well-lit home is vital to preventing falls. In a dark room, it’s difficult to see things around you or on the ground. Because many elders may also suffer from vision issues, proper lighting becomes even more important. A few ways to light the environment properly are:
- Bedside lamps
- Night lights in every room
- Multiple light switches
Schedule Routine Exercise
Incorporating an exercise routine into the daily lives of elderly individuals could help improve physical mobility and strength. Because every person is different, it’s important to provide a special and customized routine for each person, making the exercise suitable for their circumstances. A few common exercises for elderly include:
- Balance activities
- Water aerobics
- Arm raises
- Walking exercises
Fall Prevention Equipment
Investing in equipment for fall prevention is one of the best things you can do to avoid the risk of injury due to a fall. There are many types of safety equipment to invest in that will provide your loved ones with an environment built to keep them safe.
The bathroom is a very common places for falls to occur, due to the slippery nature of bathroom floors and showers/tubs. However, there is equipment available that will help prevent bathroom falls from occurring. A few common bathroom safety equipment systems include:
- Grab bars
- Transfer benches
- Non-slip mats
- Walk-in tubs
- Raised toilet seats
Emergency Response Button
Although elderly loved ones may live with their families, there will be times when they are home alone. These times are the most important in preventing a fall, because there is nobody around to help in case of an emergency. Being alone during an emergency makes the situation even more frightening. With the help of an emergency response button, elders can be home alone without worrying about receiving help during an emergency.
CareLink Emergency Response Button
With the help of the CareLink team, your loved ones can be on the way to a stress-free life at home by themselves. Our medical alert systems could help save the life of your loved one. Learn more about our emergency response buttons and how to have them installed today.
Though stairs are not ideal for homes with elders, it isn’t always possible to completely eliminate them. Therefore, there are products that can be used to help make the process of going up and down the stairs a little easier for your loved ones including:
- Stair railings
- Mobilized stair chairs
Fall Prevention at CareLink
Our team at CareLink works hard to provide the best safety and care for our customers. September 22 is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, and we want to give you the best information possible to help prevent a fall from occurring.
CareLink has relationships with several medical equipment providers in the area. We can put you into contact with a provider who can get you the tools you need to move safely in your own home, including grab bars, shower chairs, walkers, and other mobility equipment.
Through our fitness center and other fitness centers in Little Rock and North Little Rock, we offer six different types of fitness classes at four locations for people as young as 50 years old. Our fitness classes work on strength, balance, and mobility, which can help lessen the risk of falling, but also make it easier for a person to get back up when they do. To learn more about the impact of exercising on fall prevention, watch this short interview featuring one of our tai chi instructors, Betty Seales.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)
If you’ve heard, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” you are familiar with how our PERS work. Since we began offering personal emergency response system necklaces and bracelets, older people and their families have found comfort in knowing there will be timely aid in the case of a fall. Contact us today if you or an older loved one need help staying upright.